Having an effective management system within a national aviation authority (NAA) is not about computers. Although NAAs typically use a number of software applications the effectiveness of the overall management system will depend on having documented policies and procedures; sufficient, qualified staff; adequate facilities and a compliance monitoring function.
Using the right software can enhance the management system and allow the NAA to deliver more effective oversight with limited resources. The right software can significantly reduce the time spent writing reports, tracking non-conformities, managing and accessing documents and records and mean that technical staff can spend more of their time on technical inspecting tasks.
So what should you look for in a software solution? I suggest the following as a starting point.
The regulations (ARA.GEN.115 / ARO.GEN.115) require that an NAA makes all legislative acts, standards, rules, technical publications and related documents available to relevant personnel. Historically this would be achieved by maintaining a ‘technical library’ with up to date copies of documents issued by ICAO, EASA, state legislature and the NAA. New technology has made it much easier for staff to access these documents, and to have them available off-site, but it has also made it much harder to ensure that all staff are using the correct documents at the correct revision status. Some authorities get around this by delegating the responsibility to update documents to individual inspectors. This is rarely effective as the time and effort involved in updating all of this documents and verifying the correct revision status is considerable.
A good software solution will allow the revision status of all these documents to be controlled centrally and for the documents to be accessed by staff via mobile devices such as a laptop computer or iPad. A single individual can take responsibility for maintaining documents at the correct revision status and inspector’s devices will be updated automatically over an internet connection.
Documented Policies and Procedures
NAA inspectors need to follow standardised procedures when they conduct certification and oversight tasks. Each NAA has these procedures documented in the form of an ‘inspecting staff handbook’ or similar. Typically this will include detailed checklist for audits/inspections as well as policy instructions and relevant regulatory references.
A good management system software solution allows instant access to the latest versions of these procedures (see above) and facilitates the use of checklists and recording of associated evidence. Using a mobile device (such as an iPad) can eliminate the need for printed checklists and handwritten notes and mean that checklists completed on-site can be automatically archived, together with supporting documentation.
Conduct of Inspecting Tasks
Your management system solution should be able to store the schedule of inspecting activities for all operators and assign these tasks to the correct inspecting staff. Unlike a written schedule the system should also be able to assist in the conduct of inspections and audits.
When conducting an inspection the inspector needs to have access to regulations, other relevant documents, NAA procedures and checklists. He or she needs to take notes and may need to take copies of relevant evidence in the form of documents or interview notes. A good management system solution can make all of this available on a single device, such as a laptop computer or iPad.
Imagine conducting a flight inspection on the observer’s seat of a cramped flight-deck. You need to have a copy of the regulations, an inspection checklist, an operations manual, a notebook and a pen, and there’s probably nowhere to put any of it. Replace all this with an iPad containing all the required documents. You check off items and make notes on the iPad throughout the flight. You take pictures of the aircraft documents with the integral camera. Findings are generated from your notes and automatically forwarded for action. Your notes are automatically archived. The time spent writing a report is minimal and the total time required to prepare, execute and report on an inspection is dramatically reduced.
Once the inspection is complete the system will track the due dates of findings and send reminders to ensure that corrective action is implemented on time.
Maintaining a current record of the qualifications and training of technical staff can be a complex process for an NAA. A good management system software solution will not only simplify this task, but can also issue reminders and track the validity of qualifications. The content of initial and recurrent training courses can be stored in the system and instructors can record the completion of training requirements online so that validity and expiry dates are automatically updated.
The same functionality that’s used for inspecting and certification activities can also be used for internal compliance monitoring. The compliance monitoring schedule and audit checklist can be recorded and then allocated to the appropriate internal auditor. The auditor can use the functionality of the system to conduct the audit and then findings can be automatically forwarded to the responsible manager for corrective action. The system tracks due dates and issues reminders if corrective action is not completed in good time.
Safety Risk Assessment
NAAs are required to include assessment of internal safety risks into their compliance monitoring activities (ARA.GEN.200(a)(4) / ARO.GEN.200(a)(4)). A good software solution will facilitate hazard identification by allowing online reporting and then aid risk assessment using a recognised methodology. Reports and any required mitigations will be archived and the associated risks used to inform safety performance indicators that allow senior managers to monitor the safety performance of the NAA.
Maintaining accurate records of certification and oversight activities is central to the work of an NAA (ARA.GEN.220 / ARO.GEN.220). Whether information is stored in paper files or electronic archives it is a time consuming process and there is a natural tendency for these records to be incomplete or to go missing.
A good management system software solution will ensure that critical records, such as audit reports and inspection checklists, are automatically archived and can be easily accessed. Few NAAs operate in a single location so it makes sense for these records to be stored ‘in the cloud’ so that they can be accessed where and when needed. There must be strict security protocols to ensure that confidentiality is maintained.
One of the new requirements placed on NAAs by the air operations and aircrew regulations is the need to share information with the NAAs of other European states (ARA.GEN.200(c) / ARO.GEN.200(c)). This could relate to the oversight or certification of operators based in one country but with operations in another, or to operators that have multiple operating bases across Europe. NAAs are also required to make their procedures available to EASA for standardisation purposes(ARA.GEN.200(d) / ARO.GEN.200(d))
A good management system software solution will allow for external users to have controlled access to relevant information, and perhaps also to add further information, such as inspection reports.
I’ve visited NAAs that have been implementing ‘management systems solutions’ for over a year and still haven’t got them working. In addition to the purchase and licensing costs these systems have wasted thousands of euros in management time and have done nothing to improve the organisation’s management system. I therefore believe the most important feature of a software solution is that it should be easy to implement and intuitive to use. If I was purchasing a system then I wouldn’t want to see a big upfront cost. Paying an annual licensing fee means that the software provider is incentivised to keep improving the product and that the user is free to change if something better comes along.
McKechnie Aviation can recommend a single could-based software solution that meets all of the above requirements. Our team have developed management manuals and inspecting staff handbooks for NAAs within and outside Europe, so we can assist with implementation of your management system including documented procedures and a compliance monitoring function.
Organisations that have implemented this solution have found that it has boosted their efficiency and made significant savings in management and administrative time. The only way to see if this will work for you is to see the system in action so get in touch today to arrange a demonstration. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, ‘phone +44 1273 921541 or use our contact form.